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TOSHIBA SD200, £350


The SD200 is notable for having one of Toshibaís innovative double disc deck mechanisms Ė this is its second outing -- and itís the first DVD player that can play HDCD (High Definition Compatible Digital) audio CDs. Depending on your point of view (and the size of your butt) the facility to play two discs on the trot is either a very welcome convenience feature or a serious threat to the nationís health, but the advantages of HDCD compatibility are a little harder to quantify. Basically it means youíll be able to play HDCD audio CDs which sound a bit better than regular CDs (HDCD discs can also be played on ordinary CD players). However, donít get too excited youíve got to find one first, the new format hasnít exactly taken the music industry by storm, so letís move swiftly on to the SD200ís more tangible benefits.


Performance related features figure prominently on the SD200. It has advanced picture processing and noise reduction circuitry, an on-board Dolby Digital decoder, supplemented with a 3D spatial sound effect, thereís a picture zoom, YUV component video output and the firmware is upgradeable. In case you were wondering that means that should someone come up with some new kind of trick-disc, that causes problems on playback Ė like the recent debacle with mixed video and PC content on discs like The Matrix etc. -- all Tosh has to do is issue a special disc to engineers or owners, pop it in one of the trays and the playerís software is automatically updated. Thatís the theory at least and it means the SD200 is as future-proof as this fast moving technology can getÖ


The twin tray deck mechanism works very well and you can swap one disc whilst the other is playing. It doesnít make the player any harder to use, indeed the clear and easy to follow on-screen displays have been very well thought out, though the remote handset and control keys could have done with being a bit bigger.


So far so good, but the SD200 really scores when it comes to picture and sound quality. It shows up in things like skin tones, which are notoriously difficult to get right. On the SD200 subtle shades look entirely natural, the picture bubbles with fine detail and that includes dark or gloomy scenes, which on lesser players just end up looking mushy.





Picture quality is superb, colours are pin-sharp and skin tones look very lifelike, thereís also noticeably more detail in the image, which appears to have added depth and vibrancy. It sounds great too, audio CDs make a big fat smooth sound and thatís carried across to the surround soundtracks which really brings out loud dynamic effects. We have a couple of operational quibbles, the remote handset really is quite awkward to use and itís a shame thereís no disc position memory, if you switch discs part way through when you go back you have to start from the beginning again, but thatís a small price to pay, in all other respects it is a refined, top-quality player that deserves to be high on your shortlist.



AV output (1 x SCART), composite video, component video, coaxial bitstream, 5.1 surround & mixed stereo outputs (phono), S-Video output (mini DIN), digital audio outputs (coaxial & TOSlink optical)


High Definition Compatible Digital (HDCD) is a new addition to the audio CD family. Unlike the two new competing audio formats (Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio), now being touted as eventual replacements for audio CD, HDCD achieves higher audio quality and the discs are compatible with existing CD players. However, the catch is that there are only a relatively small number of specially mastered discs available. The even higher sound quality, increased track capacity and longer playing times of SACD and DVD Audio are likely to capture the publicís imagination, once the inevitable formats battle is overÖ



Contact             Toshiba (01276) 62222, www.toshiba.co.uk





SCART             Y

S-Video             Y

RGB out                        Y

Component                    Y

Optical digital            Y

Coaxial digital            Y

5.1 decoder                   Y



Region 2, PAL/NTSC, twin tray deck mechanism, Dolby Digital sound, dts compatible bitstream output, multi-speed replay, 3D sound, picture zoom, HDCD compatible







Ease of use            5

Picture  5

Sound               5

Features            4

Overall  5




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Copyright (c) 2005 Rick Maybury Ltd.